Blogs: Parents

Babies and toddlers have mental health needs, too. How do they let us know they are hurting?

We have heard much about the increase in anxiety, depression and other mental health issues in adults, teens and school-age children during times of illness and uncertainty. And thankfully, many professionals have shared practical advice on how to cope and to gradually recover our feelings of safety and hope as we find our bearings in this new-normal world. The library has even written a few posts to help, including:

But how do our youngest family members, our babies and young toddlers, let us know that they have also been affected by stress and by changing family dynamics? They don’t have the words, yet, to express their confusion and insecurity. Just like adults and older children, babies have different levels of resiliency - some will roll with the changes and thrive, while others may be more anxious and clingy. What is infant and early childhood mental health? And how do they let us know they are hurting? 
 
What is Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health
According to the Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health (MI-AIMH), “an infant, toddler and young child’s mental health is every part as important as their physical health. Mental health matters for the growth and maturity of the brain and body and for the social and emotional development of a person — now and for the whole lifetime.” But how do you know if your infant is struggling? Especially when they are not talking yet? The following is a list of behaviors you might notice and want to report to your child’s healthcare provider, from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC):

  • A decrease in appetite, changes in bowel movements, and/or changes in sleep patterns
  • A marked change in activity level (less curious or engaged; more lethargic and disinterested; unable to sit still; full of unfocused energy)
  • A marked change in level of engagement (reduced ability to pay attention, turning or looking away; more listless, roaming attention)
  • A reduced tolerance for frustration, which may present as fussiness, whining, or irritability
  • More aggression or anger in a toddler with little or no provoking; a response that is out of proportion to any apparent trigger
  • An increase in seeking comfort and attention from a parent or trusted caregiver, such as wanting to be held more than usual
  • An increase in self-soothing behaviors, such as thumb-sucking or rocking
  • Developmental regression, such as a 2-year-old who was successfully using the toilet for several months but has recently had several accidents, or an 18-month-old who was adding new words to their vocabulary daily but is talking less and using gestures instead

What can we do as caregivers?
Here are a few suggestions for ways to support everyone’s mental health when stress levels are rising from NAEYC:

  • Focus on joy. One of the best antidotes to anxiety and stress is doing something that brings you delight, makes you smile or laugh, and gets the endorphins flowing. 
  • Really tune in to your little one. Practice ‘serve and return’ by repeating back their facial expressions and sounds. 
  • Talk often with babies and toddlers even if they can’t answer back. Talk about feelings and sing comforting songs. Hold little ones close and sway and dance.
  • Be honest. There’s no point in pretending everything is normal and we’re all fine. It’s not, and we’re not. Commit with family and friends to practice managing your own mental health and to touch base with each other when you need a wellness check.
  • Be gracious. When everyone is feeling stressed and anxious, we find ourselves more irritable, less patient, more forgetful, and less kind and charitable. Remind yourself often that everyone is doing the best they can.
  • Ask for help. As Mr. Rogers once said, “Look for the helpers.” Commit to building a mental health safety net for yourself and your extended family. That means knowing who you can call on for informal as well as professional support.

Get more information. 
Several online sites offer support and suggestions for combating stress. These include:

This Mental Health Moment article was written for our Family Newsletter brought to you by Learning Support and available in English and Spanish. Please sign up here and you can email us at learning@multcolib.org with any questions.
 

closeup on the face of a young child with mask on
Going back to school has always made kids anxious — and their caregivers too! What will they wear? Will their friends be nice to them? Will they make new friends? Who will they sit with at lunch? Will a school bully be in class with them? And so on … .

This year’s return to school has an added layer of anxiety due to the pandemic. And as this article from the Child Mind Institute notes, “children who are heading back to the classroom this fall are facing unusual challenges, and one of them is an overall feeling of anxiety about what to expect.”

The article goes on to give some tips on how to address this anxiety:

  • Validate your child’s feelings
  • Set the tone by being calm and confident
  • Help your child focus on positive things
  • Make sure your child has a predictable routine
  • Emphasize safety and encourage flexibility
  • Know when to seek further help

Please see the full article for more detailed tips and ideas to help your child gain confidence and independence for a smooth school transition. It is also available in Spanish. Plus the Child Mind Institute has Back to School Tips for Parents.

And if you have a teenager heading back to school, you might be seeing a lot of turmoil. As with younger kids, it’s important to accept that these feelings are valid. And it’s also important to realize that teens may process these feelings differently than younger folks. A recent New York Times article (PDF linked below*) gives tips on how to support teens as they head back to school, with specific ideas on how to get their feelings out and flowing, without them turning into a flood. Some of the ideas mentioned are:

  • Rather than trying to “fix” your teen’s problems, “listening intently and offering genuine compassion may be all that’s needed.” 
  • “Adolescents looking for psychological relief may need a good cry to release their frustration ...Others might temper their emotions by engaging in intense physical activity. So long as it’s safe, don’t be put off by how young people discharge psychological tension.”
  • Teens might take a needed break “from worrying about the Delta variant by getting lost in a book or TikTok videos.”
  • Getting outside and moving around can also help.
  • Some may want to talk via text, rather than face-to-face.
  • As with younger kids, caregivers who are calm and confident can act like a sandbag during a flood.
  • And sometimes distraction is the best remedy. 
  • They also discuss when it’s important to be concerned and look for more help. 

We also wrote a previous post on teen mental health that we invite you to read. And again, we are here to support you, so let us know what we can do (contact email below). 

This Mental Health Moment article was written for our Family Newsletter, available in English and Spanish. Please sign up here and you can email us at learning@multcolib.org with any questions.

*If you do not subscribe to the New York Times you can get full access to their articles through the library’s databases. Here is a PDF of the article mentioned from our database: Damour, L. (2021). How to support teenagers as they head back to school, as well as a direct link into the database. Contact us for more information.

Did you know the library is more than books? Try a scavenger hunt to explore the library website and catalog. Discover some new resouces and learn a bit about the library. How many languages does TumbleBooks offer books in? What app can you use to learn a language? When did your neighborhood library open? Try all or some of the questions. Click here for the questions and, when you're ready, here are answers and how to find them.

If you are looking for help with schooling, here are some free tutoring resources to consider.

Virtual K-12 Tutoring / Tutoría Virtual

Tuesdays, 4,6 pm throughout the year
Who is eligible : K-12 students who need support in language arts, math, science, and/or social studies.
Registration required : yes, spots are limited
Who are the tutors : Multnomah County Library volunteers
Which languages is tutoring available in : English and Spanish

Tutor.com

Who is eligible :  K-college students
Registration required : yes for some features, no for live help
Who are the tutors :  college and graduate students, teachers, working professionals
Which languages is tutoring available in : English, Spanish, Vietnamese

Other Tutor.com information : 
available with a library card
live tutoring 2-10 pm daily
essay help
worksheets
suggested websites
learning videos

Learn to Be

Who is eligible : K-12 students with a focus on underserved students
Registration required : yes
Who are the tutors : high school and college students, adults
Which languages is tutoring available in : English

Interns for Good

Who is eligible : K-8 students
Registration required : yes
Who are the tutors : high school students
Which languages is tutoring available in : English

ConnectOregonStudents

Who is eligible : K-12 students in Oregon, Southwest Washington, and Northern California
Registration required : yes
Who are the tutors : Oregon high school students 
Which languages is tutoring available in : English (but includes language learning tutoring for other languages)
Other : they also offer peer support

Teens Tutor Teens

Who is eligible : Teens 13-18
Registration required : yes
Who are the tutors : high school students
Which languages is tutoring available in : English
 
Other Teens Tutor Teens information :
group tutoring
test prep tutoring
on-demand videos
worksheets
essay editing
 

If you are looking for extra academic support instead of live tutoring, consider these free resources:

Learning Resource Express Library has academic support resources for upper elementary school through high school. Available with your Multnomah County Library card.

Khan Academy has free video-based lessons and practice for K-12 students.

HippoCampus.org is a free web site that delivers content on general education subjects to middle-school and high-school students.

Ben’s Guide to the U.S. Government is a service of the Government Publishing Office (GPO), and designed to inform studentsvabout the Federal Government.

Typing.com is a free resource to help students build their typing skills. Available in English and Spanish.

Mathlearningcenter.org is a nonprofit organization serving the education community and include activities for students K-5 in math. Available in English and Spanish.

Two women and a young girl blow bubbles outside in a field

“I routinely prescribe nature to children and families.  Nature has the power to heal."  

-Dr. Nooshin Razani, pediatrician, presenter of the TED Talk "Presribing Nature for Health"

Research suggests that taking a walk, visiting a park, or getting out in nature can relieve stress, encourage social bonds, and support physical activity.  Less stress means less depression, anxiety, and isolation...not just for kids, but for adults, too!  

Portland Parks and Recreation offers plenty of opportunities for adventure!  Search for your next destination through the Find a Park feature, and be sure to check out their list of Inclusive Playgrounds, which is growing!  Gresham also offers an array of parks and trails to explore. Troutdale, with its proximity to the Sandy and Columbia rivers, offers plenty of fun options as well, and Fairview is home to many others, including our favorite, Salish Pond Wetlands Park.

Wait, there’s more! Metro Parks and Natural Areas offer 17,000 acres of outdoor exploration!  Try out the Interactive Park Finder, and while you’re there, check out their Parks and Nature News section for the latest on the ways our community enjoys nature.  

We love keeping up with Metro’s Our Big Backyard magazine and exploring back issues for beautiful photographs. The latest (Fall 2020) issue features two articles written by members of our community.  

While you're outside, you can take advantage of the learning opportunities it offers.  Portland Parks has created an at-home nature activities page, with links to videos and other activities that tap into kids’ sense of curiosity.  You can find a Flower Scavenger Hunt, a Birds of Portland guide, and a map of Tree Museums that are open for viewing right in your neighborhood.  

There’s so much to see and do out there, so take Dr. Razani’s prescription and get outside!   Even just a little bit can do wonders for your health - mental, physical, emotional, and overall!


This article was written for our Family Newsletter, brought to you by Home Learning Support and available in English and Spanish. Please sign up here and you can email us at learning@multcolib.org with any questions.

three preschool age kids - two girls and one boy - sit on the carpet.  The boy has the facial characteristics of Downs Syndrome.  One girl has her hand raised.

Kids are naturally curious about the world around them. They notice differences in people, because there are differences.  

Visible differences, like how we look, skin color, how we dress, and how we get around.  

And less visible differences, like how we learn, how we interact with one another, and how we experience the world.

Responding to kids’ observations about people with disabilities and visible illnesses can be hard for parents and caregivers who are not sure how, or are afraid they will say something wrong.   

Let’s remember that some of us are different, and experience the world differently, than others. And that’s not a bad thing! In fact, it’s a beautiful thing. Talking about it can be hard, but it’s important!  

My kids' cousin has autism. I tell my kids about how his brain works differently and experiences the world differently than our brains do.  We read books with characters who have autism and talk about them together. Their cousin's mother, my sister-in-law, shared a post on Facebook written by staff at the EDAM Center for Special Education in the Philippines.  This part really stuck with me, and I hope it sticks with you, too.

For all the children who struggle every day to succeed in a world that does not recognize their gifts and talents, and for those who are walking beside them, please let this be a gentle reminder to be kind and accepting of all people.

Recognize that the "playing field" is not always a level surface.

Children who learn differently are not weird. They are merely gifted in ways that our society does not value enough. Yet they want what everyone else wants: To be accepted!!

At the library, we strive to celebrate differences and find common ground in kindness and acceptance.  We want to support you in being comfortable talking to your kids about differences from an early age, and to keep up the conversations as they get older. Below are some resources that may help.  

This post is part of our “Talking with kids” series, as featured in our monthly Family Newsletter.  Reach out to us at learning@multcolib.org if you need more support or have questions. We’re here for you!


 

Child in voting booth looking up at camera
Families can help children learn about the government through talking, reading and playing. And teaching children how the government works from an early age helps them become good citizens in the future, especially when it comes to voting.

Start with what your children know or have heard from the news, friends and family. Be sure to discuss the importance of respecting different points of view and seeking the truth. You can also read books, play games with younger and older kids, and show them your ballot and the pamphlet with the candidate's information. Take them with you when you drop off your ballot or put it in the mail. Maybe even hold your own elections at home!

And it doesn’t end with voting - your family can continue to learn throughout the year about the government system in America and what it means to be a good citizen. Below are some book lists for all ages that will help!

This post is part of our "Talking with kids" series, and was featured in our monthly Family Newsletter. Sign up for the newsletter here, and email us at learning@multcolib.org if you have any questions.

Physical distancing doesn’t mean social distancing. Staying in touch with family and friends is important. Games can be a way to connect with the kids in your life or to connect your kids with their friends and family while at home. Whether one, two or multi-player, there are some good options for free apps and online games for preschoolers to tweens to teens.

photo of iPad with children's app icons

The Association for Library Service to Children creates an annual Notable Children's Digital Media list that has web-based and app-based games for pre-k up through middle school (some free, some for a small fee) and the Excellence in Early Learning Digital Media Award has suggestions for younger children.

Common Sense Media posts reviews and rates based on developmental criteria and factors such as ease of play, positive messages, violence, and consumerism. Reviews from parents and kids are also available.Their site has lists of suggestions for free online games and free apps that can be sorted by age. 

Check out Online Games for Families to Play Together, an article from Parents magazine. It includes some classics and some new ones, and it’s a good starting point for multi-generational game ideas. Another article shares 15 free online learning games.

Board Game Arena has thousands of games for all ages--Connect Four, Battleship, Can't Stop, King Domino, and Carcassonne to name a few. Games can be played by inviting friends or joining tables. You can also change the language for the site and play.

If branded games are okay, many networks have kids gaming sites that tie in with their characters. Some of those are PBS Kids, Disney Jr., Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and Nick Jr

Toca Boca has a lot of different games that are great for creative, open-ended play. They offer a good amount of gameplay for free, but you can purchase additional content. 

Loteria is a traditional Latin American bingo game you can play on Google Doodle Loteria. Begin by clicking the red play button for the video at the top of your screen. You can play with friends by sharing the link it gives you.

And if you ask kids, they will say Minecraft! Minecraft Classic can be played for free online although players can't save their progress.

The 14-year-old gamer son of one of our librarians suggested Forza for middle schoolers and older. Forza is a series of car racing games that is available from Microsoft Games to play on different devices.

Whatever the gaming choice, talking with your children about going online is always a good idea. SafeKids.com, Connect Safely and the Federal Trade Commission have resources for parents and children.

Have fun and game on!

Difficult conversations are happening in our country, states, cities and homes about race, racism, and anti-racism. These are not topics only for adults though. Talking with teens, tweens and younger children is important. Research has shown that children as young as six months notice race [Children Are Not Colorblind: How Young Children Learn Race by Erin N. Winkler, Ph.D. University of Wisconsi-Milwaukee, PACE Vol. 3-No. 3,  2009 HighReach Learning Inc]. 

If you are unsure how to start and continue talking with your children as they grow, there are books to share and websites with resources to help. Several of these also discuss how you can be a model since actions often talk louder than words.

Teaching Young Children About Race is a guide for parents and teachers from Teaching for Change

EmbraceRace.org has articles, webinars and action guides about how kids learn about race, seeing and talking about differences, using picture books to have meaningful conversations, and more.

Talking about Race from the National Museum of African American History & Culture shares reflection questions, videos, and links to other resources.

Teaching Tolerance was created for educators, but parents may also find it useful to discuss race and ethnicity, and rights and activiism among other topics. The home page currently features articles about Black Lives Matter and Teaching about Race, Racism and Police Violence.

Talking to Children about Racial Bias from the American Academy of Pediatrics includes how parents can confront their own racial bias and a doctor's story of his encounter with racism as a 7-year-old.

Explaining the News to Our Kids from Common Sense Media offers tips by age.

 

The library may be closed and people are staying home, but it doesn't mean parents and caregivers are alone in trying to help young children learn and develop.  This collection of resources includes articles, videos, webinars, and activities to help parents and caregivers support their children's healthy development during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

For parents:

How to Support Children (and Yourself) During the COVID-19 Outbreak
The Center on the Developing Child offers three main activities that can help parents promote their young child’s healthy development and manage their own stress during the pandemic. PDFs are provided in both English and Spanish.

How to Talk to Your Kids About Coronavirus
From PBS Kids for Parents website. A parent shares how she talked with her children about the coronavirus. Includes “four ways we can help young kids build germ-busting habits.” The article is also available in Spanish.

A support guide for parents raising babies and toddlers through the coronavirus crisis
This article from Quartz offers reassurance to parents who are concerned that their child is missing out on opportunities for growth and development during these times of uncertainty and isolation. Included are resources to help keep young children engaged and learning, ideas for parental self-care, and links to sources of information about child development.

For childcare providers:

5 ways early care and education providers can support children’s remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic
From Child Trends.

Trauma and Resilience: The Role of Child Care Providers
A webinar focused on the effect of trauma on children’s learning.It addresses the role of teachers and providers using resilience building strategies to support children across the age continuum.

For anyone interested in children’s development and well-being:

Being Black Is Not A Risk Factor: A Strengths-Based Look at the State of the Black Child
This report from the National Black Child Development Institute includes articles such as “ The Black Family: Re-Imagining Family Support and Engagement” and highlights successful programs like Great Beginnings for Black Babies, Inc.

How to Teach Children to Stay 6 Feet Apart
Tips on how to teach social distancing to children from No Time for Flashcards.

Resources for Supporting Children’s Emotional Well-being during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Guidance, recommendations, and resources provided by child trauma experts at Child Trends and the Child Trauma Training Center at the University of Massachusetts.

Resilience
A short video and an article about how children build resilience from the Center on the Developing Child.

What Is COVID-19? And How Does It Relate to Child Development?
From the Center on the Developing Child: “An infographic that explains the basics of what COVID-19 is, and what it can mean for stress levels in both children and adults… it explains how all of us can work to ensure the wellbeing of the community now and in the future”. PDFs are available in English and Spanish.

More information:

2 Ways COVID-19 is Creating Even Greater Inequities in Early Childhood Education
A brief article from The Education Trust, a national nonprofit that works to close opportunity gaps that disproportionately affect students of color and students from low-income families.

The Brain Architects Podcast: COVID-19 Special Edition: Creating Communities of Opportunity
Dr. David Williams discusses ways in which the coronavirus pandemic is particularly affecting people of color in the U.S., and what that can mean for early childhood development. 

Thinking About Racial Disparities in COVID-19 Impacts Through a Science-Informed, Early Childhood Lens
An article from the Center for the Developing Child.

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